I keep hearing how life is looking up. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Freedom is on the way. So why do I feel more burdened than ever. Why can I complete no project? Why would I rather lie in bed scrolling through the news and social media than settle to something constructive.
Mr Fanning has used lockdown to learn how to plaster walls, move electrical sockets, and plumb in a sink. I’ve organised my spice cupboard.
Even when furlough landed in my lap, giving me twelve unadulterated weeks to write, I spent the days chatting online about how I should be writing. It was only when furlough ended that ‘Rebuilding Alexandra Small’ saw progress.
At first, I blamed my Olympian level procrastination, but everyone I talk to says much the same. We’re in a collective state of bleurgh. We’re not burnt out or depressed. The notion that sits on my shoulder each day is one of “what’s the point in doing this today? Tomorrow won’t be any different.” And it’s not that I lack hope. I know this will also pass. It’s just much as the government tells us we’re ‘winning the fight’ I lack direction.
The cautious habits of last year – masks at dawn, rinsing innocent groceries, washing my hands to the tune of Deutschland über alles after opening the post – have fallen by the way. I hardly get to leave my house and mix with people these days, unless they’re also walking a dog. I try to strike up conversations with delivery men. I’m even toying with being nice to my hateful new neighbours whose sole contribution to the street seems to be six billion solar bulbs trailed through viciously pruned trees and across the once green lawns now home to grey slate.
I figure I’m sitting somewhere in between being positive about the future – my book comes out in just over a month and I’m halfway through writing another. Comedy clubs will open again and I’ve written so much new material, I could easily fill an hour (don’t worry, I won’t). I’m signing off on chapters of my fabulous new audiobook and translations of ‘Rebuilding Alexandra Small’ ready for a summer of banging on about the book to anyone who will listen.
I have no reason to feel down. Soon we should sell our Brighton flat and the inherited house in the Midlands and move to somewhere with no neighbours and a large abandoned garden. I might even get to slide into reduced work hours when free of a crippling mortgage, property management fees, and two stinging council tax bills.
And yet, I know my mental health isn’t great today. I’m not about to risk a drink, don’t worry. I’ve agreed that door is firmly shut. But the lack of motivation worries me. I’m no longer able to find delight when things go well or be bothered when they don’t.
I can’t be alone. This sense of being unable to produce anything of value or move on with things within my reach. Others must have this too.
I recently learned about ‘flow’. Also known as ‘being in the zone’ – a state of being where we become so absorbed that time flies by, and we forget we’re not at our best. It’s been around since the mid-seventies.
The only way to achieve ‘flow’ is to grant yourself the time and space and find that something to occupy your every available thought.
It doesn’t need to be building an extension or hanging more solar lights around a garden that can be seen from outer space. It can be as simple as an hour listening to an album you haven’t plays in five years or watching a show on YouTube, or catching up on the 2021 Eurovision Song Contest (my parties are legendary).
Taking time from our days (and guarding it) lets flow train your mind to let go of the fog. When someone interrupts (be they husband or dog), bat them away. Turn off email, turn off your phone, lock a door, turn off lights if need be. Drive to Barnard Castle for an eye test. Alone.
How are you coping with the ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ days?
What’s your favourite flow?